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The Place to Be This Summer

 Kellon with his board game he created.
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I had very fond memories of summer break when I was a kid.  I remember playing with neighborhood friends, riding my yellow bike, and going swimming at the city pool.  I also attended a week-long summer camp every year and eventually volunteered to work there when I was old enough to do so.  It was good for me to meet new people, have fun and learn new things.  I miss those summer days.

The school I attended had summer programs available, but they were mostly remedial in nature and were not something that any of my friends or I wanted to go to. Summer school was a requirement for credit recovery or to improve reading skills. These are very good reasons to have summer programs, but the programs were not intended to be fun.

Shenandoah CSD has offered summer programs over the years but has recently expanded and revamped our summer programs into summer camps. Summer camp at Shenandoah Elementary and Middle School looks a little different then the camp I attended as a kid. We do not have cabins, go-karts, horses, or an indoor swimming pool.  However, we do have a broad range of activities for kids to participate in including forensic science, coding, digital scrapbooking, crafts, fitness, zoo animals, legos & games, Ag Art, and camping & cookout.  Reading and math activities are integrated into each of the camps to help kids advance their skills in these areas as well.  The summer programs and camps are designed to be fun, engaging and packed with learning. We want the camps to be the place to be and a highlight of the summer for the kids that participate.

I went to visit our camps on Thursday. I had such a good time I wanted to stay bit longer. It rained so many activities were brought inside.  However, it didn't stop the fun! The energy level was high and quite exciting to be around.

Kellon and Addison shared with me the board games they had created this week.  Just listening to them talk made me smile, laugh, and take note of how they are being creative and learning to plan, organize and produce new ideas.  Addison shared quite the board game that included a monster, a butterfly, and hopscotch.  It was hopscotch with a bit of a twist.

Mrs. Kettwick and her crew were having a grand time making healthy snacks and discussing a new hockey game they learned to play.  Playing? Yes, learning healthy habits at a young age is essential. Kids need to learn the value of exercise and develop an understanding of proper nutrition. It was the perfect opportunity to help our kids grow, play and learn.

I couldn't resist the smell of fresh pancakes so I made a stop by the camp for cooking.  Mrs. Novinger had quite the kitchen crew.  Katie was busy creating a poster and writing directions on how to wash your hands, Grace was washing dishes, and Jacobi was helping make the pancakes.  Grace was excited to show off her new skills and offered to make me a pancake. The kids were excited to learn basic cooking and independent living skills that will help them be successful. Learning life skills helps develop responsibility, builds confidence, and a sense of independence.

Mrs. Karr and Mrs. Blake were generous to spend a few minutes talking with me about their camps. It was good to hear them reflect on what the kids were doing and the teaching methods they were using. Mrs. Karr taught a STEM unit introducing forensic science.  Students were able to take on roles of geologist and toxicologists as they investigated a crime. The student's work involved actually testing with powders, analyzing fibers and completing burn testing.  Mrs. Karr was pleased with the level of student engagement and the ability to facilitate more hands-on learning. Mrs. Blake noted some students experienced success in trying new activities such as digital scrapbooking and stitching and embroidery. She shared that it was nice to see her student's strengths in different areas and noted that the activities had a calming effect on the students.

Some have asked why we invest in extended learning. We do this because it is good for our kids and contributes to their learning. The camps provide learning opportunities for students to be actively engaged in the summer in activities targeted at expanding academic areas such STEM, promoting the overall social, emotional and physical development, and providing them with additional opportunities to explore the community. The camps also keep students actively engaged in activities with appropriate supervision keeping them in a safe, secure environment during times that parents usually are working. It bridges the gap and limits the academic loss that occurs when students are disengaged and are isolated in the summer months. These types of activities help keep kids connected and involved in building positive peer and adult relationships which is good for their social-emotional health. I look forward to seeing this work expand and serving more students. It may appear on the surface to be light work or play, but it is engaging student-centered learning.